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Oklahoma’s Heat Wave Takes More Lives

Updated:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A heat wave that has killed at least seven people and sickened dozens of others in Oklahoma sent temperatures climbing past 100 degrees again Friday as weary residents struggled to cope.

The state Medical Examiner's office, which had reported three deaths earlier in the week, announced that four more people, all elderly, died Thursday because of the blistering hot weather.

A 79-year-old man collapsed and died from the heat in eastern Oklahoma while trying to contain a small fire he had started to burn some weeds, said Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the spokesman for the state medical examiner. The man's body temperature was 110.

A 72-year-old man was found dead in his travel trailer near Gore in eastern Oklahoma. The travel trailer did not have an air conditioner.

A 77-year-old woman collapsed and died in her living room in Lindsay in south-central Oklahoma. The home had an air conditioner, but it was not on and neighbors said the woman rarely used the unit to save money.

An air conditioner failed in a home in Oklahoma City and the 87-year-old woman living there was found dead, Rowland said. A neighbor noticed that the woman had not picked up her newspaper and called police to investigate.

Ambulance services in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have made more than 150 heat-related calls in the past week. The heat wave started July 9, and most of Oklahoma has seen high temperatures above 100 since Sunday.

"Our crews were loaded up on water," said Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority in Oklahoma City. "Our crew members have been feeling woozy in the heat."

Smoking a cigarette in the shade of a building in downtown Tulsa, Marilyn St. John said this is the kind of weather that has her questioning her favorite vice.

"Weeks like this it's even hard to take a smoke break," she said between drags. "It's almost enough to make you quit."

Oklahoma City hit 103 by 2 p.m. Friday as the city marked its ninth triple-digit day in a row. Oklahoma City tied a high Thursday for that date set in 1936 of 107.

Friday, El Reno was the hot spot in the state at 104, with Lawton and Stillwater each reaching 103 by mid-afternoon.

In Tulsa, ozone monitors registered smog above federal levels five times during the week. The highest readings came on Thursday when one monitor reported ground-level ozone 31 percent above the federal standard. Three monitors recorded exceedances on Thursday and a fourth reported .084 parts per million ozone -- .001 away from a violation.

"It was just horrendous," said Nancy Graham, who coordinates air quality alerts in the Tulsa metropolitan area.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas stayed under ozone alerts for most of the week, including Friday.

Ground-level ozone or smog forms when pollutants bake on hot, still days. Continued high levels of ozone could land either city on the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called "dirty air" list and lead to a host of additional costs to reduce ozone-formation components.

Meanwhile, a slight cooling trend predicted for Saturday arrived a little earlier than expected and began to bring temperatures down a bit in the northern part of the state.

Woodward and Ponca City were among the cities that saw their temperatures top out in the 90s, said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The weekend promised a respite before a warming trend expected for next week. The high forecast in Oklahoma City for Saturday was 89, and for Tulsa it was 87.

Those have been typical readings for 10 in the morning in both cities since the heat wave started.

"I don't know what that will feel like," Burke said. "We're going to have mornings in the middle 60s."
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